"Shake It Off" (September 2011)
I believe we are living in a time of “shaking”. The earth is literally shaking because of the earthquakes that are happening daily. The things we once trusted in- job security, our leaders, government, our finances- they all are being shaken. They are becoming “unsteady” to the point where you can’t put your trust in any of them at all. What has been stable all our lives can no longer be trusted to be there in the future. The nations are being shaken. Relationships are being shaken. Things are being shaken all around us. This month I want to address several issues but they all start with a “shaking”. Yet, I want to talk about a different kind of shaking then we see that is happening “to” us and in the world.
Recently, I was praying about a situation that someone I know was going through. While praying the Lord begin to speak the words, “Shake it off”, to me. The more I prayed the more I heard the same words, “Shake it off”. Then the story of the prodigal son came to mind- the part where he was in the pigpen. “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” (Luke 15:13-17) In the verses above it said that “he came to himself”. In plain English it means that he finally “came to his senses” and realized where he was- in the wrong place. We are all familiar with wanting to “shake some sense” into someone. Many parents would love to shake some sense into their teenagers. So when we say that this prodigal son finally came to his senses, we could say that “he shook himself” and started thinking like he should- he “shook some sense into himself”.
Before I expound on what the Lord was showing me, I want to say that I don’t believe this was a word for my friend only. It is time for many of us to “shake” some things off and “come to our senses”- spiritually speaking. Like the prodigal, for whatever the reason, some have allowed themselves to get in the “pigpen”. The prodigal son got there because of his rebellion. For us it might be any number of other things. It could be because of broken promises by someone we trusted, or abuse, maybe its the loss of a job, persecution, a bad report, perhaps it is because of the loss of a loved one. The pigpen represents a place- a place where the believer should not be. This young man was a Jewish boy, he never should have been in a pigpen. He was an heir, now he lived as a slave. His father was wealthy and loved him, but he was living as a pauper under the rule of someone who had no compassion on him. What is this “pigpen” that a believer might wind up in? It is more of a “state” than a literal, physical place- a state of mind and heart. This place might be a place of overwhelming guilt, shame, remorse, regret or condemnation. It could be a place of bitterness, anger, resentment or unforgiveness. It can also be a place of fear, anxiety or depression. It is a place of curses, not a place of blessings. If you are in any of these “places”, then you are in the wrong place and it is time for you to “shake it off” and come out- you don’t belong there.
How do we shake it off? How do we come to our senses? How do we get out of the pigpen? “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” (Luke 15:17,18) The answer is found in the words of the young man. How did he come to his senses? He remembered his father and that he was his son. Coming to our senses means that we not only realize where we are but where we should be because of Whose we are. What does coming to our senses look like? It looks like this-- taking a look around you and saying, “Wait a minute, what am I doing here!? I am a child of my Heavenly Father. I am His daughter, or son. I am an heir. I am not a slave in a pigpen. I am not a servant to bitterness (or whatever it may be). I don’t have to serve fear (if that is the “pigpen” you are in) and let it make me suspicious, depressed or anxious. It doesn’t rule over me.”
If you are a child of God- you have been born again (John 3) by putting your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for you at the cross as your way of salvation and forgiveness of sins- then you have become an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ. “The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:16,17a) It means that you are blessed of the Lord and have been given certain rights and privileges as His child. One of those blessings is abundant life. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b) Living in a pigpen is not abundant living. It is a life of oppression and defeat. The abundant life comes through living victoriously over the enemies that would try to put you in, and keep you in, a pigpen. How do we live a victorious life and not wind up in the pigpen? The promise of victory is also part of our blessings as an heir of God.
I want to use a story from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament to help illustrate the blessing of victory that we have. “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees. So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man. And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present. But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him. And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out. Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them. When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber. And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth. And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath. And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them. And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over. And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man.” (Judges 3:13-29)
The nation of Israel had sinned again against the Lord so the Lord gave strength to Eglon the king of Moab to defeat them and make them their servants. When the children of Israel repented and cried out to the Lord, He raised up a deliverer- a man named Ehud. From reading the story you will see how Ehud defeated Eglon. He killed him with a dagger. It said that when Ehud thrust the dagger into Eglon’s belly it went all the way in him. Eglon was a very (which in the Hebrew means- extremely) fat man. So the fat “sucked” the dagger up into him- handle and all. Evidently, he was extremely fat because the dagger was a cubit in length (which was about nine or ten inches). I have seen programs on television about very fat to obese people. The one thing they all have in common is their lack of mobility. Most obese people are basically defenseless because they are not agile. Many of the ones I have seen (they may have been the size of Eglon) are not even able to get up out of a chair or off the bed by themselves. Eglon did arise out of his seat, but because he was so large it was probably not an easy task. His size left him defenseless and easy for Ehud to defeat.
I shared this story because our enemy has been rendered defenseless so he is easy for us to defeat. Like the Israelites who were held captive under the power of the Moabites, we were held captive under the power of sin and satan. We needed a deliver. Jesus came and died on the cross to deliver us from the power and slavery of sin. “For sin shall not have dominion over you.” (Romans 6:14a) “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36) He also destroyed the works of the devil and rendered him powerless to lord over us any longer. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13-15) So because of Jesus’ victory over the enemy, those who come to Christ have victory over him as also. This is part of our inheritance as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. “O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.” (Psalm 98:1) “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Jesus not only gave us victory over the enemy. But He allows us to share in that victory by delegating His power and authority over the enemy to us. “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19) “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
So we do not have to succumb to the enemy and his schemes and temptations. We don’t have to be in the pigpen- that is not the place where we belong. And if we do find ourselves there, we need to “come to our senses” and “shake ourselves” and then get up out of there. Victory has already been provided for us by Jesus. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4) “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Secondly, our coming out of the pigpen has to be accompanied by repentance. “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” (Luke 15:18) The prodigal son repented of his sin. How does that translate into our getting out of the pigpen? For us it means that we acknowledge that we allowed whatever it was- let’s say it was bitterness- to have place in our lives. It means saying from our heart, “Father, I am sorry for being bitter. Please forgive me. I am coming back to You and leaving this place of bitterness. I am coming back to the place of love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. I have victory over this, it does not have victory over me.” When the son in the story went back home, he was prepared for whatever decision his father made. He was prepared to humble himself and submit himself to his father as a slave to their master. But when he got there, the father did not make him a servant, he wasn’t made a slave, he was restored to the place of a son. The father put a robe on his shoulders, the family ring on his finger and threw a party welcoming him home. When we remember that we are a child of our Heavenly Father and turn from the pigpen to Him in repentance, He will restore us to our rightful place. We may have “left it” by holding on to bitterness, but He completely forgives and places us right back where we belong. That’s called grace. The grace of God covers a multitude of sins. It covers our mistakes, our failures, our shortcomings, our rebellion... it covers it all and bestows forgiveness and restoration on us.
When the prodigal son repented, he came out from under the bondage of the pigpen. When the Israelites repented, they came out from under the bondage of the Moabites and their land had rest for eighty years. “So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.” (Judges 3:30) When we repent, it brings us out of the bondage of those things that have held our thoughts, hearts and emotions captive. We then get to once again enjoy the blessings that come from being a child in God’s family. “Enjoy”, not just dream about them, or wish we had them or could feel them. We enjoy the blessings that comes from being out of the pigpen. Isn’t there joy from being free from bitterness, etc.? Isn’t there peace that comes from not holding on to bitterness and having it torment your thoughts? Isn’t it nice not to feel so uptight and like you are always “fighting”, like the prodigal who was fighting the pigs for some morsel?
Once we get out of that pigpen, how do we stay out? We know that the enemy is always going about seeking whom he may devour. We know he doesn’t give up or quit trying to steal, kill and destroy- even though he has been defeated. So what do we do when he sends something our way to try to cause us to start down the road that leads to the pigpen? Look back at the story of Ehud defeating King Eglon. What did it say he defeated him with? A dagger which had two edges. That is our answer. We have already said that living a victorious life is part of our inheritance in Christ. In order to have a victory there has to be a battle. When battles come, you have to have weapons to fight them with. The sixth chapter of Ephesians tells us that we have been given weapons. They are not material/physical weapons because we don’t fight against flesh and blood people. They are spiritual weapons. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11) In that chapter we are told what they are. One part that is listed is the “sword of the Spirit”. It is described as “the Word of God”. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17b) Ehud’s weapon was a dagger (also translated in Hebrew as a sword) with two edges. The Word of God is a sword that has been compared to a two-edged sword, only sharper. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) So when the attack comes, when the thoughts come against your mind, when you are tempted to sin, when something bad or wrong happens to you, take out your sword and do battle. That is how Jesus defeated the devil when he came to tempt Him in the wilderness- with the Word of God. (Matthew 4)
In order to defeat the enemy and walk in the victory that Jesus already gave you, you are going to have to keep your “sword” honed. That is done by renewing your mind with God’s Word. Keeping your mind renewed means you have to change the way you think and “reprogram” your mind with what God’s says- not what others say, not what the enemy says, not what your own feelings and emotions say, and not what the circumstance says. You have to let His Word govern your thoughts, actions, reactions and attitude. If you don’t you will be defeated because the mind is the battleground. Whoever wins in the mind wins. This is why we are told to capture our thoughts. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4,5) For example, if someone mistreats us and we don’t capture those thoughts about what they did to us or why they did it, pretty soon those thoughts will begin to develop a stronghold in our lives and that stronghold will take us captive and hold us prisoner. Thus, we wind up in the pigpen of bitterness, anger, resentment, unforgiveness and even revenge. The Bible says we are destroyed because of lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6) The lack of knowledge is often that we don’t understand the principle that everything starts with a thought. Adultery, drug abuse, revenge, rebellion, etc. it all started as a thought, a thought that was not renewed and taken captive by God’s Word.
So the way out of the pigpen and the way to keep from winding up in the pigpen boils down to renewing your mind with God’s word. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2) If we keep our minds renewed with His Word, we will know the truth and the truth will keep up free- free from winding up in the pigpen. Keeping our minds renewed with the Word of God will also cause our faith to grow and when the things that would try to put us in the pigpen come, we will have no problem pulling out our “sword” and using it to defeat the enemy- because we already know we have victory.
If you are in a pigpen- a place of defeat, depression, fear, etc.- then today you need to “shake yourself and come to your senses” and get out of there because that is not where you belong. You are an heir to the blessings of God and one of those blessings is a life of victory over the pigpen. “Shake yourself from the dust; arise, sit [erect in a dignified place], O Jerusalem; loose yourself from the bonds of your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 52:2- Amplified Bible)